Mobile Friendly or Mobile Only?

I remember just a few years ago sitting at a crowded tech conference in Silicon Valley and hearing a company say they were “mobile first,” which sounded pretty cutting-edge. Mobile first meant the company’s strategy was to develop a mobile app before they developed a web version of their product, or perhaps their plans were to never develop a web version at all.  

Fast-forward to today, where there is an entire cohort of people for whom the internet is an entirely mobile experience, period. Reinforcing this point, I came across an article on CNBC from this past January titled “Nearly Three Quarters of the World Will Use Just Their Smartphones to Access the Internet by 2025.”

According to the article, “Almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people.” Furthermore, TechCrunch recently published an article titled “Google Makes Mobile-First Indexing the Default for All New Domains,” which means that starting in July of this year, “mobile-friendly content will be used to index any new website’s pages, as well as to understand the site’s structured data and to show snippets from the site in Google’s search results, when relevant.”

Our own research confirms this direction. In our 2018 national survey of arts patrons, 36% of those aged 46-55 said they had bought a ticket on their smartphone in the previous week — and that number increased to 45% for those aged 26-35. In many ways, the future these articles are heralding is nearly here now.

So what does this mean for you? Let’s consider the lifespan of your website. How long has it been since you did a complete refresh? And how much of your effort has gone into perfecting the online experience? Though I don’t have data to benchmark this, my sense is that arts websites generally are updated every three to five years. And since 2025 is less than six years away, now would be a good time to do a “mobile experience audit” for your organization. It’s easy to do — and costs almost nothing. Just talk with your patrons in your lobby. Ask them what they’d like to be able to do from their smartphones and compare that with what you offer now. I’ll bet in short order you’ll recognize a bunch of deficiencies — and opportunities.  

From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that the mobile ticket-buying experience on many arts sites has improved dramatically in the past few years. However, what seems to be significantly lacking is the ability to get customer support. Often I have to pinch and zoom to find the “contact us” button. Sending in a question from your phone should be simple and easy — and often it’s not.

So as we move quickly toward the next version of the web experience — “mobile first” — let’s recognize that we’re almost there already. And your mobile experience should be the first thing you think about in terms of your organization’s web presence.

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